Lifting capacity with outriggers: 75 tons at 16 ft. radius, 34 tons at 25 ft. radius Lifting capacity without outriggers: 18 tons at 16 ft. radius, 10 tons at 25 ft. radius Unit weight: 185,000 lbs. Length (crane and boom): 27 ft. 3 in.
The Industrial Works of Bay City, Michigan built this crane in 1914 as unit #2573 for the Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR); the railway assigned it the number 63017. Most of its career was spent working out of the station in Hanna, Alberta. It is self-propelled and powered by a vertical steam boiler inside the cab. It received number 50127 when the CNoR became part of Canadian National in 1920. It was donated to the museum in the early 1980s.
The steam boiler in the crane appears to be in good condition and it will be evaluated for eventual operation. Pictured below are two plaques from the crane; its original number is visible on the plaque at left.
This heavy duty lifting crane is a fine example of the typical "big hook" found on all but very minor railways in North America. Usually there was an auxiliary outfit stationed at every mainline terminal and some branchline points when conditions warranted it. The auxiliary was available on very short notice for dispatch to any point within its designated territory to attend to mishaps. Clearing the line was of utmost importance in order to restore service as quickly as possible.
A collision sometimes only involved crew members, but a passenger train collision compounded the problem. It was then that the crane and the people who manned the auxiliary were put to the test, clearing wreckage away gently but quickly in order to allow removal of passenger casualties.
The crews who manned the auxiliary were all specially trained and assigned to it, and were on call at all times. Engine and train crews were pulled from assignments still in the terminal or else were called as soon as possible depending on the situation.
The shops always had an engine available for just such occasions. The assigned crew, the grub, and the locomotive were assembled and could be underway in as little as thirty minutes. Since wrecks often involved injury or death, the survival of an injured person relied heavily on the prompt dispatch of the auxiliary to the scene.
The crane was also called upon to do routine chores found elsewhere around the railway such as maintenance, but these other uses were not as high a priority. Authorization was required from division officers - including the chief dispatcher - whenever the services of the "hook" were required for these other lower priority duties.
(Our special thanks to Ken Parker, whose father worked this crane, for providing additional information.)
Weight: 42,000 lbs.
A constant companion to 63017 is its idler car, 57611. It was originally a flat car built in 1912 and was later converted for use as an idler. The car serves two purposes. First, it provides space in a train for the crane arm to "sit"; without it, with the crane arm in the front position, the front coupler on the crane would be inaccessible . Second, it carries spare equipment, supplies and tools required for the crane during operation. This idler, however, serves a third purpose: sleeping accommodations. Since the crane is fired and operated like a locomotive, there are sleeping bunks for a crane engineer, an operator and a fireman. Another donation from CN.
50387 Crane / 54597 Idler
This crane, yet another generous donation by CN in the 1990s, was built in 1956 by Industrial-Brownhoist and bears serial number 12325. Its capacity is 250 tons. Note the flat car on the right, 54597, with which the crane is paired. This allows the crane to be placed in the centre of a work train, since without it the coupler underneath the boom would be inaccessible.
51566 (401) Tender
Built in 1910, 51566 was formerly a tender for CN 4-6-0 #1441, which was GTP #618. The tender was last used with CN piledriver #50122. It is equipped with arch bar tender trucks fitted with heavy duty leaf springs and steel-tired wheels with 5.5 x 10 journals. Steel tired wheels were required for passenger service. It is presently stored awaiting painting and lettering. When that is complete it will be displayed with Steam Crane 63017.
One of the lesser known benefits provided by the tender was the unintended service it provided to "the knights of the road" (hoboes) when traveling on a cold winter's night. The warmth radiating from inside the water tank, combined with some pieces of cardboard for a mattress and an old blanket or tarp, provided the economy-minded traveller a reasonable degree of comfort during his journey.
28251 Flat Car
Light Weight: 38,000 lbs.
This car was built in 1909 by the Dominion Car and Foundry Company, Montreal, PQ, for the Canadian Northern Railway, and given number 28251. It became CN flatcar #650090 and finally CN #57383. It has been painted and lettered for the Canadian Northern Railway. It is on display under the Hart Parr tractor and a set of discs. It was donated by CN in 1982.
Originally box car 509363, it was built in March 1930 and measured 40.6 ft.in length. In December 1975, under order AK12-75, the car was cut down to make a gondola and numbered 58285. It is lettered High Speed Accessory car and MWF as well. It was donated by CN in February 1997.
18104 Bunk Car
This car was acquired by the Museum in 1983. It was built in the 1920s as a 10-compartment companion car #52 for Henry Ford's business car "FAIRLANE". The Museum has copies of the original plans for the car, courtesy of the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. The plans were found recently among Mr. Ford's personal papers.
The NAR bought the car about 1942 to accommodate increased passenger traffic during the Second World War. It debuted in NAR service as Day Coach #1953. It is uncertain when this car was converted for work service; probably in the late 1960s or early 1970s. In its current incarnation as a bunk car, it has a toilet, wash room, shower room, and bunk area. There is a bed, two drawers, window, upper shelves, and locker for each man. It is also very well heated. There is even a recreation room for smoking, socializing, and playing cards.